Austrian magazine “Society” runs a write-up of the Fly To Baku exhibition

Austrian magazine “Society” runs a write-up of the Fly To Baku exhibition

Fly To Baku – an exhibition featuring works by twenty-one contemporary artists from Azerbaijan – has opened at the Vienna Museum of Art History.

“Art is universal language that speaks to the whole world, helps people to communicate, and carries traditions and cultures beyond international frontiers”. This is the approach of Mrs Leyla Aliyeva, the Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation – the organisation which has brought the Fly To Baku exhibition of the Vienna Museum of Art History. Together with art curator Hervé Michailoff, and Christian Hölzl, head of the museum's Display section, Mrs Aliyeva opened the Fly To Baku exhibition – which has already been shown in Rome, Moscow, Berlin, London and Paris.

“I always took an interest in the arts – and so I am especially delighted that this exhibition gives talented artists from Azerbaijan the chance to show their work to the world. It's afforded us a wonderful opportunity to visit Vienna – another city with ancient origins. Vienna is one of the true cultural pillars of Europe.”

- Leyla Aliyeva

The country's creative spirit

Fly To Baku displays works by twenty-one contemporary artists from modern Azerbaijan. “The vibrant pulse of modernity, hitched to deep-rooted tradition and bound together by art – that's the link between Austria and Azerbaijan”, affirms  Christian Hölzl when looking at parallels between the two countries.

The works in the exhibition are astounding in their allure and diversity, covering art genres from painting through to installations, from video and photo through to performance. Curator Hervé Michailoff, who career has included the Louis Vuitton fashion empire in London, spoke about his intense impressions after meeting the artists – and the energy which radiates from their work.

Mr Michailoff similarly stressed how the art of Azerbaijan mirrors the country's character. It's a meeting-point between trends in Western art, and influences of the C20th soviet avant-garde. Re-evaluating memories, experiences and ideas about Baku is an important theme for all of the artists represented in this exhibition – it's their native city, where they live and work. The nature of Azerbaijan's capital has altered considerably in recent years – these changes hold sway in the artwork on display.

The many facets of Azerbaijan's art

The exhibition was set up by a three-way partnership between the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, BAKU magazine, and the Azerbaijan Embassy in Vienna. Mr Emin Mamedov was the artistic consultant, who said that the exhibition represents the pinnacle of Azerbaijan's artistic achievement to be shown abroad at present. It not only shows how contemporary artists in Azerbaijan view the changes taking place in their homeland – it also familiarises foreign viewers with the contemporary image of Azerbaijan.

One artist represented in the show is Aga Husseinov – who emigrated to New York in 1991, but has retained close links with his homeland. His work – primarily sculptures – reflects life as it was in the USSR. His twisted figures and mechanisms mock the absurdity of the USSR's official ideology.

One of the older artists in the exhibition is Mamed Mustafaev, born in 1948, and whose work involves depicting architecture. His work was shown during the soviet era, and he was awarded the title of Decorated Artist of Azerbaijan. Mustafaev's works are distinguished by being both light and ground-rooted – due in part to the materials which the artists deploys in his work. One example is bamboo – simultaneously light-weight, yet remarkably durable.  For Fly To Baku Mustafaev created a piece made from two table-lamps, that remind us in part of rather wobbly fifty-year-old bookcases, or a strange model of a universe with two suns.

“The first flowering of Oriental democracy was in Azerbaijan. It was in Azerbaijan that the first school for girls opened in the Islamic world – in Baku that the first opera written in an Oriental land was staged. Baku, Azerbaijan's capital is a synthesis of ancient and modern traditions.”

- Leyla Aliyeva

Faiq Akhmed presents two peculiar sculptures – a cross between abstract art and the traditional craft of carpet-weaving. A young artist, born in 1982, he's found his own distinctive artistic signature – which was already recognised in 2007 when his work was displayed in the 52nd Venice Biennale Exhibition. One of his favourite approaches is combining modern abstract forms and materials, such as metal, with richly-coloured carpets, woven in time-honoured fashion. It's a metaphor for how the ideas of past ages penetrate the present.

Text: “Society” magazine.